Skip to main content
Caption: floating buttons
 
spacer_valid
View East Riding Safeguarding Children Partnership View East Riding Safeguarding Children Partnership
spacer_valid 2
View Working Together View Working Together
Caption: main heading
 

6.2.2 Early Permanence: Fostering for Adoption, Concurrent Planning and Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter deals with the placement of a child with carers who are dually approved, i.e. approved both as prospective adopters and as local authority foster carers.

The advantage of this type of placement is that the child will be placed with foster carers who, subject to a Placement Order being made, or parental consent, are expected to go on to become the child’s adoptive family. The child therefore benefits from an early placement with their eventual permanent carers.

RELEVANT GUIDANCE

The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review

Fostering For Adoption: Practice Guidance (Coram, BAAF)

National Early Permanence Practice Standards (Coram Centre for Early Permanence)  - the key aim is for ‘the standards to be used as a tool to enable local authorities, regional adoption agencies and voluntary adoption agencies to progress and secure consistency and coherence in the early permanence offer to children within their governance and partnership arrangements’.

AMENDMENT

In November 2023 this chapter was refreshed and a link added (above) to National Early Permanence Practice Standards (Coram Centre for Early Permanence). 


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Examples of Situations Where Placements with Dually-Approved Carers may be Appropriate
  3. Concurrent Planning
  4. Fostering for Adoption (known as EPP Placement)
  5. Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters


1. Introduction

This procedure deals with placement of a child with carers who are dually approved, i.e. approved both as prospective adopters and as local authority foster carers.

Early Permanence (EP) is an umbrella term covering Concurrency and Fostering for Adoption placements. Both retain the potential for a child to be reunified with their family depending on specific care plans and circumstances and the outcome of the final court decision (National Early Permanence Practice Standards (Coram Centre for Early Permanence), Glossary of Terms).

The advantage of this type of placement is that the child will be placed with foster carers who, subject to a Placement Order being made, or parental consent, are expected to go on to become the child's adoptive family. The child therefore benefits from an early placement with their eventual permanent carers. Delay in finding a permanent family for young children who have already experienced neglect early on in their lives may have a profoundly damaging effect on their development.

This type of placement has potential to reduce this delay and the damage caused significantly and as a result:

  • The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 were amended (in 2013) to allow approved prospective adopters to be given temporary approval as foster carers for a named child.

There is a duty upon local authorities to consider a placement with dually approved carers whenever it is considering adoption or where the decision has been made that the child ought to be placed for adoption, but where the agency does not yet have authority to place the child for adoption through either a placement order or parental consent. (Section 22C(9B) Children Act 1989 (as amended by the Children and Families Act 2014).

These placements are foster placements. This placement will only become an adoptive placement if:

  1. The Agency Decision Maker (ADM) has decided that the child should be placed for adoption; and
  2. Either a Placement Order has been made; or
  3. Parental consent to the child's adoption is given. 

It is possible that such a placement may not lead to adoption, for example because the child's plan changes where rehabilitation with the birth family is successful, because suitable family or friends come forward or because the court does not agree to make a Placement Order. This may mean that the child returns home or is moved to another permanence arrangement. But, for the vast majority of children in such placements, progression towards adoption will be the anticipated outcome.

Local authorities will need to ensure that people who are willing to care for a child in this way are fully aware that the placement may not lead to adoption, and that they have been given appropriate information and training so that they understand their role and legal responsibilities as foster carers and ongoing support once the placement has been made.

Coram BAAF Statutory Guidance states:

The successful implementation of FfA placements will require that attention is given to the local procedures for identifying children to whom the placement might apply. Permanency planning procedures, including tracking and monitoring arrangements, decision making and authorisation for such placements and availability of appropriate resources to make and sustain placements, will be essential.

The position of the birth parents FfA can be considered at various points in the evolution of care planning for the child.

There are two likely scenarios:

  • Where the child is accommodated under Section 20, Children Act 1989 and prior to proceedings. It is vital in such cases that the parents have access to support and legal advice and they are fully consulted and their views incorporated into the local authority’s plan. It is important that the local authority is clear about the appropriateness of the child continuing to be accommodated when their plan is adoption. A recent High Court judgment, Re CA (a baby), sets out a series of points that must be addressed to ensure that a parent, where the local authority’s plan is to accommodate the child under section 20, fully understand their own position and the actions being planned by the local authority;
  • Where care proceedings have begun and the child is subject to an Interim Care Order. Where an FfA placement is being considered and may be viable, it is essential that the birth parents are consulted about their views on such a placement and wherever possible their cooperation established.

The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review statutory guidance (2010, para 2.31) notes that:

‘As part of the assessment process, it is essential when planning a placement to consult all those concerned with the child. The need for consultation should be explained to the parents and the child. The responsible authority should coordinate the involvement of all relevant agencies and all the individuals who are significant in the child’s life. Before making any decision with respect to a child whom they are looking after or propose to look after, section 22(4) provides that the responsible authority should, as far as is reasonably practicable ascertain the wishes and feeling of: the child;

  • His parents;
  • Any person who is not a parent of his but had parental responsibility for him; and
  • Any other person whose wishes and feelings the authority consider to be relevant; regarding the matters to be decided.’

The statutory duty to ascertain wishes and feelings will need to reflect the specific circumstances and stage of the care planning process. While the local authority will have identified that the likelihood of the child returning to the birth parents is very small and placement with FfA carers is in the child's best interests, the parents must be informed that the local authority cannot pre-judge the outcome of care proceedings and only the court can authorise placement for adoption if the parents do not consent to their child being placed for adoption. In seeking the parents’ cooperation in the FfA plan, the local authority should make it clear that they are focussed specifically on the needs of the child and the benefits for the child of making such a placement. Further, it must be explained that while the local authority believes that adoption is the right plan, or likely to become the plan if rehabilitation is not successful, they cannot and will not interfere in the parent’s right to have their evidence presented and heard before the court if that is what they decide they want to do. If the court decides that the parent’s case is strong and dismisses the local authority's case, then the child will either be placed with the parents or an alternative suitable permanent carer. Explaining any of this to the parents is challenging and requires considerable skill and understanding as it can easily be interpreted as duplicitous or misleading.

Section 3, Concurrent Planning is an established practice for placing children with dually approved carers. As these placements are foster placements, rather than placements for adoption, they could be made under existing legislation. The law has, however, developed to make the situation more explicit.


2. Examples of Situations Where Placements with Dually-Approved Carers may be Appropriate

  • Where parents have had one or more child/ren previously placed for adoption or other forms of permanent placement and the evidence strongly suggests that their circumstances have not changed and they pose the same risks as they did to the previous child/ren;
  • The local authority does not have a proactive plan to rehabilitate the child as the circumstances of the parents are such to pose a serious on-going risk;
  • Where this is the first child, the circumstances of the parents and the risks to the child are such that there is no proactive plan to return the child to the birth parents or to other family members;
  • Where parents have indicated that they may want their child adopted, but have not formally consented.

The local authority should not consider such a placement where the child is Accommodated under section 20 Children Act 1989 and there is a reasonable likelihood that the child will be able to return to his or her birth parents or to family or friends.


3. Concurrent Planning

Under the Children and Families Act 2014, where the local authority is considering adoption for a child (see Section 4.2, Considering Adoption for a Child) or is satisfied that the child ought to be placed for adoption but has not yet been authorised (either by consent or by Placement Order) to place the child for adoption, the authority MUST consider placing the child with a relative, friend or other Connected Person or, where they decide that such a placement is not the most appropriate placement, then they must consider placing the child with an approved adopter who is willing to consider taking a child under a fostering arrangement.

In such a situation, the requirements under the section 22 of the Children Act 1989 to ensure that placements allow the child to live near the parents’ home, be placed within the local authority area, remain at the same school and to be placed together with sibling(s), do not apply.

(The carers may be dually approved by being fully approved adopters and foster carers for any child, or they might be approved prospective adopters who have been temporarily approved as foster carers for a named child under regulation 25A of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 – see Section 5, Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters).

Such a placement must be approved by the Nominated Officer who must:

  • Be satisfied that:
    • The placement is the most appropriate placement available for the child and will safeguard and promote his/her welfare; and
    • The child’s wishes and feelings have been ascertained and given due consideration, and the CISRO has been informed; and
  • If their whereabouts are known, notify the child’s parent(s)/guardian of the proposed placement.

(It is expected that the Nominated Officer will be a social worker with a good understanding of care planning, including adoption and fostering. It could be the adoption Agency Decision Maker).

Concurrent planning is usually used in cases where rehabilitation with the birth family is still being attempted, but it is expected that adoption will become the plan for the child should the rehabilitation not be successful.

Concurrent planning requires the identification and delivery of a detailed rehabilitation plan while the child is placed with carers who are approved for both fostering and adoption who support that plan. If the rehabilitation plan proves to be unsuccessful, the foster carers can go on to adopt the child once Care Proceedings and the Placement Order application are completed.

It involves placing a Looked After child with approved foster carers who, as well as providing temporary care for the child, bring them to regular supervised contact sessions with their parents and other relatives. In addition, the carer may spend time with the parents at both ends of contact sessions to update them on the child’s progress. This enables a relationship to develop which is supportive to the parents. The agency provides focussed support via a contact supervisor whose role is to advise the parents to help them to change their lifestyle and improve their parenting skills with the aim of enabling their child to return home to them. If this is the outcome, the child will have maintained contact with their parents and have sustained their attachment because of the regular contact visits. But the carers are also approved as adopters so that if the parents’ rehabilitation plan is not successful, the child may be placed with the carers for adoption, ensuring a continuity of attachment.


4. Fostering for Adoption (known as EPP Placement)

4.1 Duty to Consider EPP Placement

Under section 22C (9A and 9B) of the Children Act 1989 as amended by the Children and Families Act 2014 the Children and Families Act 2014, where the local authority is considering adoption for a child (see Section 4.2, Considering Adoption for a Child) or is satisfied that the child ought to be placed for adoption but is not yet authorised (either by consent or by Placement Order) to place the child for adoption, the authority MUST consider placing the child with a relative, friend or other Connected Person or, where they decide that such a placement is not the most appropriate placement, then they must consider placing the child with an approved adopter who is willing to consider taking a child under a fostering arrangement.

Where a child is placed in a fostering for adoption placement, the relationship which the child has with the person who is a prospective adopter must be considered by the Court or Adoption Agency alongside other relevant relationships the child has with their relatives or other persons. (See s.9 Children and Social Work Act 2017 amending s.1(f) Adoption and Children Act 2002).

In such a situation, the requirements under the section 22 of the Children Act 1989 to ensure that placements allow the child to live near the parents’ home, be placed within the local authority area, remain at the same school and to be placed together with sibling(s), do not apply.

(The carers may be dually approved by being fully approved adopters and foster carers for any child, or they might be approved prospective adopters who have been temporarily approved as foster carers for a named child under regulation 25A of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 – see Section 5, Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters).

Such a placement must be approved by the Nominated Officer who must:

  • Be satisfied that:
    • The placement is the most appropriate placement available for the child and will safeguard and promote his/her welfare; and
    • The child’s wishes and feelings have been ascertained and given due consideration, and the CISRO has been informed; and
  • If their whereabouts are known, notify the child’s parent(s)/guardian of the proposed placement.

(It is expected that the Nominated Officer will be a social worker with a good understanding of care planning, including adoption and fostering. It could be the adoption Agency Decision Maker).

4.2 Considering Adoption for a Child

Examples of when a local authority may be considering adoption include:

  • Where the local authority is trying to rehabilitate the child with the birth parents, there are no suitable family or friends carers and adoption is the best option for the child if rehabilitation does not succeed;
  • Where the local authority has decided at the permanence planning stage that adoption should be the plan for the child. The local authority must be able to demonstrate to the ADM and the court why the child cannot return home, why the child has not been placed with family or friends, why no other permanence plan is appropriate for the child and why adoption is the right plan for the child;
  • In cases where the birth parents have indicated that they are likely to consent to the child being placed for adoption, but have not yet consented;
  • A Fostering for Adoption (EPP) placement can also be made after the ADM has made the decision that the child should be placed for adoption, but does not yet have authority to place the child for adoption.

Examples of where a local authority will not be considering adoption include:

  • The child is likely to return home;
  • They are aware that there are family or friends who can care for the child;
  • A permanence placement other than adoption is more appropriate for the child.

If, at any point during the planning of an Early Permanence / Fostering for Adoption placement or - if the child is ready in such a placement, there is any change to the circumstances of prospective carers (including relatives) a planning meeting should take place at the earliest opportunity. The meeting should include the Fostering for Adoption carers and all professionals, and should consider the new information, so that the carers can make an informed choice about their position. Similarly, this also allows the local authority to consider their position in light of the change in circumstances.

4.3 Notifications

Where a decision is made to place a child in a Fostering for Adoption placement, the adoption agency must:

  • Notify the prospective adopter in writing;
  • Explain the decision to the child in an appropriate manner, having regard to the child’s age and understanding;
  • Explain to the birth parents (which includes fathers without Parental Responsibility) / guardian the legal implications.

On those occasions where the child is voluntarily Accommodated under section 20 of the Children Act, the notification should remind the birth parents of their right to remove the child from the local authority’s care and should provide advice on access to legal advice and appropriate advisory bodies. At this point, the Local Authority may wish to consider commencing care proceedings.

The statutory guidance (para 2.39) notes:

‘While there is no requirement for a formal agreement by the parent to the Court Care Plan, the responsible authority will be aware of the principles underpinning article 8 of the ECHR concerning the ‘right to respect for family life’ and should ensure that parents are appropriately consulted and that the reasons why their views have or have not been acted upon are recorded.’

Many parents will need, and should always be advised, to discuss their position, views and circumstances with their legal representatives. Some parents will understand that such planning is clearly on the side of their child and will want to maximise their child's opportunity for healthy development in the context of a foster care placement even though it is a very painful experience when they would want to be able to do this themselves. For many, knowing the child will not be moved if a Placement Order is made or that they are being placed with a sibling will be seen to be the right thing to do. A confident, resourced, experienced and well supported social work practitioner is at the heart of being able to establish a cooperative working relationship that acknowledges the fears and anxieties inherent in such a plan, but remains focussed on the child and the child's development. While parental consent or court order is not necessary in order to place a child with specific foster carers, if the court considers that the local authority’s plan is an interference in the parent’s rights under Article 6 or 8 in relation to the Care and Placement Order application, then an alternative placement plan will be necessary.

The parents should be informed that the local authority cannot pre-judge the outcome of Care Proceedings and only the court can authorise placement for adoption if the parents do not consent to their child being placed for adoption.


5. Temporary Approval as Foster Carers of Approved Prospective Adopters

Approved prospective adopters can be given temporary approval as foster carers under 25A of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010. This temporary foster carer approval process can be carried out at the same time as the adopter approval process.

This temporary approval can be given for a named Looked After child, where the local authority considers that this is in the child’s best interests.

Before giving such approval, the responsible authority must:

  • Assess the suitability of that person to care for the child as a foster carer; and
  • Consider whether, in all the circumstances and taking into account the services to be provided by the responsible authority, the proposed arrangements will safeguard and promote the child’s welfare and meet the child’s needs as set out in the Care Plan.

Coram BAAF Guidance states:

Preparation and assessment FfA carers will need to be adequately prepared and suitably assessed. The timing of preparation is crucial. Carers should have access to appropriate supplementary/ specific preparation sessions as well as the usual preparation and training package available to all adopters. Meeting other adopters who have experience of these types of placements is an important part of this preparation. In the home study, there is an appropriate exploration of the capacity of the foster carers/prospective adopters to manage the emotional and practical tasks of being foster carers until and if placement for adoption is agreed by the court.

The timing of preparation may be different for carers where the plan is the placement of a named child under Regulation 25A. The timescales for these placements may be condensed. There can be challenges in preparing carers where time and resources may be limited given the urgency of placing the child. However, there may be some advantage in being prepared and assessed in relation to a known child. It is important to ensure that carers are fully informed about the nature of the placement, their role in that placement as foster carers and their understanding of the possibility of the court deciding to pursue an alternative plan to adoption. These issues must be addressed in the report to the agency decision maker on the suitability of the carers as foster carers for the named child. Prospective carers should not be or feel rushed into accepting an FfA placement.

The temporary approval period expires when:

  • The placement is terminated by the local authority;
  • The approval as a prospective adopter is terminated;
  • The prospective adopter gives 28 days’ written notice that they no longer wish to be temporarily approved as a foster parent in relation to the child; or
  • The child is placed for adoption with the prospective adopter in accordance with the Adoption and Children Act 2002.

End